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June 9, 2014

Parks board OKs lower budget than 2014

County ‘limping,’ supt. says

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County Parks and Recreation Board Monday voted to approve a general fund budget for next year that is about $130,000 less than last year.

The board approved a general fund budget, funded through property taxes, at $1,024,412 for next year, a reduction from the park department’s current budget of $1.155 million.

Parks Superintendent Kara Kish referred to a May letter from the Vigo County Council that states that while the property tax revenue stream appears to have leveled off compared to previous years, the “circuit breaker credits continue to reduce funds available.” The council is projecting a reduction in revenue to the county in 2015 of more than $24 million.

Kish had presented a 2015 budget that cut $95,000 of the $130,000 reduction and had sought that the Parks Board approve the remaining  funds from the department’s operating balance. Kish said the department’s staffing levels cannot be reduced to maintain current levels of service at the parks.

Board member Jeff Fisher suggested other cuts be considered rather than reduce the department’s operating balance. Kish said the only other area is new equipment. Fisher moved and the board approved cutting new equipment from $40,000 down to $5,000. With that, the total reduction of $130,000 would match the projected total cut in revenue.

“We can limp another year, but it will literally be limping,” Kish told the board. The department has been attempting  to replace aging equipment and vehicles that are 15 years old or older with very high usage and mileage.

Kish told the board the park’s budget receives 90 percent of its funding from property tax. Kish told the board she will seek to increase funding from non-tax dollar areas, such as grants and corporate sponsorships or donations. “My goal is to get to a 70/30 split” on funding, Kish said, as a way to keep funding levels less reliant on property taxes. “Most departments statewide are closer to an 80/20 split, and some are 70/30 split,” she said.

The approved budget from the parks department assumes a 1 percent pay increase from 2014 to 2015, as recommended by the County Council. The parks department’s budget has no increases in pay steps for employees. The County Council, in the May letter, is also recommending a 1.5 percent pay increase to non-graded and elected officials.

The Parks Board’s approved budget next goes before the Budget Committee of the Vigo County Council this week. The full council is scheduled to vote on the first reading of 2015 budget in August and vote on the final reading of the 2015 county budget in September.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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